NBA Los Angeles Lakers

Los Angeles Lakers: 5 Things to Watch as Preseason Tips Off

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Los Angeles Lakers: 5 Things to Watch as Preseason Tips Off

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

What in the heck is going on with the Los Angeles Lakers?

Within the past year, the Lakers failed to re-sign Dwight Howard, said goodbye to Dr. Jerry Buss, nearly missed the playoffs only to be swept by the San Antonio Spurs in the first round, played one of their worst seasons in franchise history, snubbed Phil Jackson and hired Mike D’Antoni, ruptured Kobe Bryant’s Achilles and, alas, decided to adopt short-sleeve jerseys.

I can go on listing absurdities. (But I won’t.)

The 19th-century French sociologist Aguste Comte defined “critical” epochs as times of social disharmony, when traditions and ideologies were in turmoil and no one could agree how to solve society’s problems (compare this to “organic” ages, when society progresses naturally, kind of like when you're ordering a pizza for a party from Pizza Hut and everybody agrees on original pan crust -- nothing crazy like stuffed crust thank you very much).

The 2013-14 season is a critical age for the Lakers. With the passing of Dr. Buss, the Lakers have no consensus on how to lead the franchise.

Despite what Bryant said about pieces “fitting” for the Lakers better this season than last season, expectations have surely dropped. Metta World Peace and I may be the only people who think the Lakers can make it to the NBA Finals

This year will prove to be one of the most important years in Lakers history and will determine the future of the franchise.

Lucas Rubio is a columnist for Follow him on Twitter @PlayerzLeague.

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5. Mike D'Antoni

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Will D’Antoni force Bryant, Gasol, Nash and the rest of the team to try and fit into his offensive system and repeat another disastrous season, or has he finally learned his lesson?

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4. Nick Young and Steve Blake

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

With Nash set to play limited minutes because of the injuries he suffered last year and Bryant’s return still unknown, the Lakers will depend on role players like Nick Young and Steve Blake. If Blake and Young improve their game and contribute career-high numbers, the Lakers will win more games than expected.

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3. Pau Gasol

Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

With Bryant and Nash both still recovering from injuries, Gasol is by far the best player on the Lakers. Luckily, he’s also one of the best players in the NBA. D’Antoni must curate his system so that the Lakers’ offense concentrates on Gasol’s talents.

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2. Kobe Bryant

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Like Nash, much of the Lakers’ success depends on Bryant’s recovery. When will he be back? And when he does return, will he play as great as he did last season?

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1. Jim Buss

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Not only does this season depend on Jim Buss, but all future Lakers' seasons depend on him too. So far, Buss has failed as head of basketball operations for the Lakers. For Buss to continue his father's legacy and win more championships, he must learn how to trust GM Mitch Kupchak and his management team to make the basketball decisions. The best thing he can do is reconcile his relationship with his sister Jeanie Buss and her husband Phil Jackson. Maybe then he’ll realize how valuable having Jackson in the family can be to the Lakers' organization.